INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP – NEW REPORT
Reforming the Judiciary in Pakistan
Islamabad/Brussels, 16 October 2008: Return to civilian rule in Pakistan offers an opportunity to restore the rule of law and to reverse state-driven Islamisation, which has empowered Islamist radicals at the cost of the moderate majority.
Reforming the Judiciary in Pakistan,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the legacy of military rule that has seen superior courts unwilling to uphold fundamental freedoms. Motivated by self-preservation and self-interest, Pakistan’s superior judiciary has not just failed to oppose Islamic legislation that violates fundamental rights but has also repeatedly failed to uphold the constitution.
“The military’s politically motivated constitutional and legal changes that have radicalised swathes of Pakistani society must be reversed”, says Samina Ahmed, Crisis Group’s South Asia Project Director. “The government must respect judicial independence, and the judicial arm of the state must live up to its responsibility to protect and preserve the constitution”.
In March the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), then coalition partners, released scores of political detainees, including lawyers and judges arrested during Pervez Musharraf’s 2007 martial law. They pledged to enforce human rights, and restore constitutionalism, the rule of law and judicial independence.
Before the coalition collapsed, the PPP had put together a proposed constitutional package, aimed at generating a public and parliamentary debate on constitutional reform. While the proposals included useful suggestions on strengthening parliament’s role and undoing the military’s constitutional manipulations, some proposed measures could undermine democratic reform, including judicial independence.
The PPP should introduce a constitutional amendment package that focuses on judicial reform. The government’s democratic credentials and the country’s political stability would also be best served with the ruling and opposition parties reaching agreement in parliament on repealing discriminatory religious laws that restrict fundamental rights, fuel extremism and destabilise the country.
The international community should avail itself of the opportunity the new democratic government presents. By unconditionally supporting Musharraf’s military regime in the belief that this relationship would deliver counter-terrorism dividends, the international community had shied away from supporting democratic reform.
“As the regional implications of Pakistan’s religious laws become more tangible, so have the costs of international inaction”, warns Robert Templer, Crisis Group’s Asia Program Director. “The international community could help reverse the tide of radicalism in Pakistan if it fully supports a sustained democratic transition”.
Contacts: Andrew Stroehlein (Brussels) +32 (0) 2 541 1635
Kimberly Abbott (Washington) +1 202 785 1601
*Read the full Crisis Group report on our website: http://www.crisisgroup.org